Time for Everything
“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity
under the heavens.”
“And what about above the heavens?” Little Jack was standing on his pew, raising his hand and speaking clearly, as he had been taught to do when he had a question. “Do angels also have a time for each thing? Are there seasons in heaven?”
There were murmurs and a few giggles from the startled congregation in the small, dark nave. The preacher frowned in displeasure, stopping mid-sentence to deliver a stern look that included both the young boy and his parents.
“Yes. There are.”
Little Jack jumped, startled. Out of nowhere, a well-dressed boy had appeared in the middle of the aisle, standing mere inches away from him. The boy – or was it a girl? – was not much taller than little Jack but seemed quite a bit older.
“But as to your first question, no, we don’t have a time for each thing. We have time for everything.”
“Who the hell are you?” little Jack blurted, too loudly. He instantly regretted using that word in this place, and cringed slightly in expectation of another stern look.
“No, again. Not hell. Heaven. I am Angel.”
Little Jack was about to reply that even if he was young, he was not fool enough to believe in angels. But it was at that moment he realized he’d never gotten that second stern look … because the first one had never ended. The preacher, his parents, and everyone else around him were absolutely paralyzed, frozen in time. Even the book he had inadvertently knocked off the pew when he was startled was floating, pages mid-turn, in the air.
“Well, you don’t have to believe me,” said the boy, as though little Jack had voiced his thought. “But I am a time angel, and I am here to guide you through your time journey.”
“You don’t look like an angel.”
“Have you ever seen an angel?”
“Sure, plenty of times.”
“I don’t mean in cartoons, or drawings, or movies. Have you ever seen an angel in real life?”
“I rest my case.”
“Never mind. Let’s get moving. Stopping time is not a straightforward thing, even for angels.”
“I thought angels would be taller ….”
“What was that?”
“Good, good. We begin yesterday.”
Angel took little Jack’s hand, and life rewound itself. They walked backward down the wooden boards of the church aisle, out onto the street, and into their family car as his mom unopened the door for him. Everything continued backward until they reached the night before, when he was laying down in his backyard, looking up at the stars.
“Does it really matter what happens up there?” Angel asked, laying down beside little Jack on the lawn, his head resting on his folded arms.
“The grown-ups say it does.”
“It doesn’t. What matters is what happens here.” Angel touched little Jack’s forehead and the sky exploded in motion. The celestial dome sped up, constellations crisscrossing over and over as planets danced around them in their continuously laced paths. Tens, hundreds, thousands of sunsets followed sunrises, while millions more sunrises backtracked into sunsets – not always in that order.
Little Jack has the bird dead center in his sling’s aim and shoots. The lifeless bird topples from its nest, bringing down with it a half-opened egg with a hatchling inside. In another sunrise, the stone is not thrown, and a pair of beaks will tweet, joyful.
Teen Jack freezes and chooses not to ask her to the prom. He is the only one alone, shy and miserable in the corner of the room. In another sunset, the request is accepted, and by God, there’ll be dancing.
Jack is being scolded by his very first boss for arriving late again. He opts to answer back, angrily. In another sunrise, he listens and will keep this job and others after.
Jack is not sure he wants to know the truth, but he confronts her anyway. She confesses, and he watches as she cries. The betrayal is painfully real. He looks deep into her eyes before turning around and leaving, rage growing with each step. In another sunset, he chooses forgiveness and there will be mending.
Middle-aged Jack holds the check in both hands, looking once more at the tempting zeros before ripping it apart. The loan is too risky; his dream will have to wait. In another sunrise, he uses the seed money and the bet on himself will pay off, many times over.
Old Jack vows to hold her hand until she comes back to him, forever if necessary. The hum of the machines, as rhythmic as the hospital bills, becomes the soundtrack of his life. In another sunset, a tough decision will bring them both peace.
Little Jack decides to not raise his hand. He lets the question die inside of him. In another sunrise, he will laugh, cry, and dream of unwritten futures under a starry sky.
“And that’s it. I hope you enjoyed the ride,” Angel said, disappearing. The preacher’s stern gaze deepened at the sound of the book clattering noisily onto the wooden floor.
The startled congregation, lit by the ruby hues of the afternoon sun through the stained glass, finally reacted to the interruption, muttering and whispering. The preacher, shifting his stance on the marble tiles, was at a loss for words.
Jack didn’t care. His mission had been accomplished; he had asked the question. Lowering his wrinkled, sun-spotted hand, old Jack walked out of his pew, down the aisle, and out into the world.